Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

A Facility Fanatic Seeks McDonough

A funny thing happened on the way to the dining hall.

Thursday about noon as I made my way toward Chicken Finger Thursday at Darnall, a middle-aged man hopped out of his car to flag down a passer-by. For better or worse, I happened to be that passer-by, and so, over the tall hedge that separates the sidewalk from the road outside Darnall, he began his questioning.

It all started with what seemed an innocent enough question: “How do I get to the basketball gymnasium from here?”

As I began to give him directions, a dozen questions coursed through my mind. Perhaps my first mistake was to let curiosity get the better of me, but it did and I selected one of those questions and asked it.

“What, specifically, are you looking for?” I asked, knowing that both the men’s and women’s basketball seasons had ended more than a week before this conversation started. That’s where things got weird, and to the best of my recollection, the conversation from there proceeded something like this:

“I’m looking for where the Georgetown men’s basketball team plays,” the man said. “And also where the George Washington basketball team plays.”

“Well, Georgetown plays most of its games at MCI Center downtown, and I think George Washington’s stadium is downtown somewhere, too,” I answered.

“Georgetown plays some games on campus, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, they have a few here each season,” I responded. “But not Big East games because it’s not big enough. Mostly preseason games against cupcake teams.”

“I just need to see the gym, because I’ve already been to MCI Center,” he said.

I didn’t have any response.

“I’ve seen 282 college basketball arenas,” he continued. “This will make 283, and if I find George Washington’s, that’ll be 284.”

A quick mental check of his calculations showed them to be accurate, if not particularly enlightening. So dumbfounded was I by the unexpected course of this conversation that every question that had previously been milling about in my mind suddenly and silently ceased to exist.

He asked me what it looked like, and I could only describe cDonough as the bad mating of a high school gymnasium and a brick aircraft hangar. With that, he drove off to continue his evidently epic quest and left me standing on the sidewalk outside Darnall with a hunger that not even Chicken Finger Thursday could sate.

Since Thursday, every one of those unasked questions that stranded me outside the dining hall that day has come back to haunt me.

What would possess a man to visit 284 college basketball arenas? I’ve heard of fathers and sons, brothers or friends taking a couple of weeks in the summer to visit professional baseball parks. They see a game from the cheap seats in one city and then migrate on to the next venue.

But basketball season was over, and this man appeared to be traveling alone. Like my apartment-mate junior year, he had no interest in watching the Hoyas play basketball. No, this man was in it solely to see the stadium.

Where and when did this journey begin, and – more importantly – where and when will it end? The Darnall hedgerow stood between myself and his car, so even as he drove off to continue his voyage, I couldn’t see his license plate. Does he have a home team, and is that where this absurd adventure – like the adventurer himself – has its roots?

And on the subject of home teams and roots, why isn’t this man content to stay wherever it is that he came from and root for his one team, whatever it may be? Maybe he’s simply a connoisseur of college basketball, or some adventurous architect looking for ideas. Perhaps his journey mimics the pants and jackets I’ve seen on M Street – clothing not supporting a single franchise, but an entire professional sports league, logos from every team plastered up and down the legs or arms. A sign of devotion to the game rather than of allegiance to a single team.

Finally, there is one question that has haunted me more than any other since Thursday. What did he think of McDonough Gymnasium? Did he drive onto campus thinking what an incredible school Georgetown is, only to be turned off – like so many other sports fans and would-be college athletes – by that facility? I’ve pictured him taking a self-guided tour of the building and then returning to his car, pulling out a notepad and ranking McDonough against 282 other college basketball facilities.

Then I stop and consider how empty McDonough must have been when he saw it, and how unrepresentative that is of Georgetown’s student body – a group so full of energy and spirit. And I wish this traveler could have seen McDonough as we most often see it – the home of our freshman convocation, the home of our second-round NIT game, the home of parts of our impending graduation ceremonies.

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